The State Government today (31 March 2016) launched Victoria’s newest Koori Court in Geelong, a major boost for services in the region.
Attorney-General Martin Pakula launched the court during an official ceremony at the Geelong Law Court, making it the 11th adult Koori Court and the 12th Children’s Koori Court in the state.
Koori Courts were established in 2002 to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal Victorians in the criminal justice system, ensuring offenders are sentenced in a more culturally appropriate manner and are able to discuss the underlying life issues that contribute to their behaviour.
They involve the Koori community, Aboriginal Elders and Respected Persons in the court process, with an Elder or Respected Person providing cultural advice to the magistrate and discussing the background of the offender.
The magistrate still sentences the offender in accordance with the same requirements that apply in mainstream courts.
To have a case dealt within the Koori Court, a person must be of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, plead guilty and consent to having the case heard in the Koori Court.
The person must not be charged with a sexual offence or breach of an intervention order and must be willing to come to court and talk openly about their behaviour.
The Koori Courts employ 80 Elders and Respected Persons, and 16 full-time and part-time staff, making a significant contribution to the employment of Indigenous staff across Court Services Victoria.
The Geelong Koori Court will begin sitting in June this year.
Victoria’s Attorney General Martin Pakula said: “In the 12 years they have been in existence, Koori Courts have played a major role in delivering fairer outcomes for Koori offenders and have improved engagement with local Koori communities.”
“The courts allow offenders to have a say better engage with the process and reduce those feelings of alienation and intimidation experienced by many Koori offenders, especially young people.”
Local Member for Geelong Christine Couzens said: “It’s fantastic to see the Koori Court model being rolled out in Geelong – it will be a huge benefit to Aboriginal Victorians in the Barwon South West region.”
“Koori Courts are also a great source of employment for local Koories. I look forward to meeting with local Koori Court workers once the Court begins sitting in June this year.”
Source: A state government media release